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Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s hype train is backed by first-person accounts

Running backs coach Deland McCullough and linebacker Anthony Hitchens vouched for the rookie this week.

College Football Playoff National Championship - Clemson v LSU Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

When it comes to Kansas City Chiefs rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the hype train has certainly left the station. That has been the case especially over the past week, as two of the most prominent national football journalists who are connected to the Chiefs in ESPN’s Louis Riddick and NFL Network’s Peter Schrager said the same thing:

Draft Edwards-Helaire first overall in fantasy football.

As we wrote Wednesday, that is noteworthy even to those who don’t play fantasy football because of what it means — Edwards-Helaire with better numbers as a rookie than Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, the otherwise-consensus first overall pick who accumulated more than 2,300 yards and had 19 touchdowns in 2019.

The catch here is that Riddick and Schrager have not been able to watch practice, nor has the majority of Kansas City’s media.

But someone who has been able to watch Edwards-Helaire as closely as possible is Chiefs running backs coach Deland McCullough, who is bullish on the 21-year-old.

“What I’m seeing is someone who is extremely hard-working,” said McCullough. “He’s very hard on himself and that can be good and bad. He’s somebody who is a perfectionist, who wants to have perfect practices — you know it would be nice to say you’re going to have those, but you’re not going to have those all the time so you need to be able to take the good with the bad, but more in his case, the bad and move forward. That’s something we’re really working on him with, ‘Hey you just got to play to the next play.’

“But very impressed with his demeanor, his approach to the game, things he does on the field and he will correct himself even if there’s something that goes off the rails, he’ll come off and say, ‘Man I was supposed to run this or I should’ve looked the other way.’ He’s somebody who’s constantly self-checking himself.”

Opposing defenders at practice are already experiencing all that Edwards-Helaire has to offer.

On Wednesday, Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens was victim to an open-field move in the team’s two-minute period.

“I kind of got rubbed by the tight end going vertical — had to work over the top, which is hard and then making a play on a guy like that in space makes it even harder,” Hitchens described. “It’s a good play and setup for him. He made a quick move — a smart [move] because it was the two-minute situation. He got all the yards and he didn’t have to get out of bounds. He knew, and he was thinking of a situation, so he cut back across the field, and we eventually got him down, and they kicked a field goal.”

Asked for a known comparison, Hitchens likened Edwards-Helaire to a young LeSean McCoy, a member of the Chiefs Super Bowl LIV team and now a member of the revamped, Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Andy Reid drafted McCoy with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009, and he managed more than 1,000 scrimmage yards eight seasons in a row from 2010-17. Hitchens compared Edwards-Helaire to a young McCoy because of his shiftiness.

As for what Edwards-Helaire can do for the offense, well, McCullough is highly optimistic.

“He’s going to come in there, and he’s going to do some great things for us,” he said. “It’s going to fit similar to the role that he did for the national champions (LSU) last year — a guy that can run the ball at a high level, run with velocity, run with great feat, pad level and power. An elusive guy in the open field, we’ll have situations where he’ll be able to use those skills in the open field — whether it be through screens or downfield routes, and he’s showing that he can do those things.”

Edwards-Helaire rushed for 1,414 yards on 215 carries (6.6 y/a) and caught 55 passes for 453 yards in his final season as an LSU Tiger.

“The big thing is mentally picking everything up, and he’s definitely en route to doing that,” McCullough added. “I feel very confident putting him out there with the first group at this moment. He’s been performing at a high level mentally than what you would expect a rookie to do, so again, we’re going to continue working on things — we got stuff to work on like everybody do. But I feel confident before the season comes that this guy is going to be ready to roll.”

That is in three weeks, when the world will officially be introduced to the rookie as the Chiefs take on the Houston Texans.

“He’s one of the better players in this league and will be one of the better players in this league at making people miss in open space,” said Hitchens.